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Predictive maintenance
techniques: Part 1
Predictive maintenance basics


Maintenance philosophies
If we were to do a survey of the maintenance philosophies employed by different process
plants, we would notice quite a bit of similarity despite the vast variations in the nature of
their operations. These maintenance philosophies can usually be divided into four
different categories:

Breakdown or run to failure maintenance

Preventive or time-based maintenance
Predictive or condition-based maintenance
Proactive or prevention maintenance.

These categories are briefly described in Figure 1.1.


Breakdown or run to failure maintenance

The basic philosophy behind breakdown maintenance is to allow the machinery to run to
failure and only repair or replace damaged components just before or when the equipment
comes to a complete stop. This approach works well if equipment shutdowns do not
affect production and if labor and material costs do not matter.
The disadvantage is that the maintenance department perpetually operates in an
unplanned crisis management mode. When unexpected production interruptions occur,
the maintenance activities require a large inventory of spare parts to react immediately.
Without a doubt, it is the most inefficient way to maintain a production facility. Futile
attempts are made to reduce costs by purchasing cheaper spare parts and hiring casual
labor that further aggravates the problem.
The personnel generally have a low morale in such cases as they tend to be overworked,
arriving at work each day to be confronted with a long list of unfinished work and a set of
new emergency jobs that occurred overnight.

Practical Machinery Vibration Analysis and Predictive Maintenance

Figure 1.1
Maintenance Philosophies

Despite the many technical advances in the modern era, it is still not uncommon to find
production plants that operate with this maintenance philosophy.


Preventive or time-based maintenance

The philosophy behind preventive maintenance is to schedule maintenance activities at
predetermined time intervals, based on calendar days or runtime hours of machines. Here
the repair or replacement of damaged equipment is carried out before obvious problems
occur. This is a good approach for equipment that does not run continuously, and where
the personnel have enough skill, knowledge and time to perform the preventive
maintenance work.
The main disadvantage is that scheduled maintenance can result in performing
maintenance tasks too early or too late. Equipment would be taken out for overhaul at a
certain number of running hours. It is possible that, without any evidence of functional
failure, components are replaced when there is still some residual life left in them. It is
therefore quite possible that reduced production could occur due to unnecessary
maintenance. In many cases, there is also a possibility of diminished performance due to
incorrect repair methods. In some cases, perfectly good machines are disassembled, their
good parts removed and discarded, and new parts are improperly installed with
troublesome results.

Predictive maintenance basics


Predictive or condition-based maintenance

This philosophy consists of scheduling maintenance activities only when a functional
failure is detected.
Mechanical and operational conditions are periodically monitored, and when unhealthy
trends are detected, the troublesome parts in the machine are identified and scheduled for
maintenance. The machine would then be shut down at a time when it is most convenient,
and the damaged components would be replaced. If left unattended, these failures could
result in costly secondary failures.
One of the advantages of this approach is that the maintenance events can be scheduled
in an orderly fashion. It allows for some lead-time to purchase parts for the necessary
repair work and thus reducing the need for a large inventory of spares. Since maintenance
work is only performed when needed, there is also a possible increase in production
A possible disadvantage is that maintenance work may actually increase due to an
incorrect assessment of the deterioration of machines. To track the unhealthy trends in
vibration, temperature or lubrication requires the facility to acquire specialized equipment
to monitor these parameters and provide training to personnel (or hire skilled personnel).
The alternative is to outsource this task to a knowledgeable contractor to perform the
machine-monitoring duties.
If an organisation had been running with a breakdown or preventive maintenance
philosophy, the production team and maintenance management must both conform to this
new philosophy.
It is very important that the management supports the maintenance department by
providing the necessary equipment along with adequate training for the personnel. The
personnel should be given enough time to collect the necessary data and be permitted to
shut down the machinery when problems are identified.


Proactive or prevention maintenance

This philosophy lays primary emphasis on tracing all failures to their root cause. Each
failure is analyzed and proactive measures are taken to ensure that they are not repeated.
It utilizes all of the predictive/preventive maintenance techniques discussed above in
conjunction with root cause failure analysis (RCFA). RCFA detects and pinpoints the
problems that cause defects. It ensures that appropriate installation and repair techniques
are adopted and implemented. It may also highlight the need for redesign or modification
of equipment to avoid recurrence of such problems.
As in the predictive-based program, it is possible to schedule maintenance repairs on
equipment in an orderly fashion, but additional efforts are required to provide
improvements to reduce or eliminate potential problems from occurring repeatedly.
Again, the orderly scheduling of maintenance allows lead-time to purchase parts for the
necessary repairs. This reduces the need for a large spare parts inventory, because
maintenance work is only performed when it is required. Additional efforts are made to
thoroughly investigate the cause of the failure and to determine ways to improve the reliability
of the machine. All of these aspects lead to a substantial increase in production capacity.
The disadvantage is that extremely knowledgeable employees in preventive, predictive
and prevention/proactive maintenance practices are required. It is also possible that the
work may require outsourcing to knowledgeable contractors who will have to work
closely with the maintenance personnel in the RCFA phase. Proactive maintenance also
requires procurement of specialized equipment and properly trained personnel to perform
all these duties.

Practical Machinery Vibration Analysis and Predictive Maintenance


Evolution of maintenance philosophies

Machinery maintenance in industry has evolved from breakdown maintenance to timebased preventive maintenance. Presently, the predictive and proactive maintenance
philosophies are the most popular.
Breakdown maintenance was practiced in the early days of production technology and
was reactive in nature. Equipment was allowed to run until a functional failure occurred.
Secondary damage was often observed along with a primary failure.
This led to time-based maintenance, also called preventive maintenance. In this case,
equipment was taken out of production for overhaul after completing a certain number of
running hours, even if there was no evidence of a functional failure. The drawback of this
system was that machinery components were being replaced even when there was still
some functional lifetime left in them. This approach unfortunately could not assist to
reduce maintenance costs.
Due to the high maintenance costs when using preventive maintenance, an approach to
rather schedule the maintenance or overhaul of equipment based on the condition of the
equipment was needed. This led to the evolution of predictive maintenance and its
underlying techniques.
Predictive maintenance requires continuous monitoring of equipment to detect and
diagnose defects. Only when a defect is detected, the maintenance work is planned and
Today, predictive maintenance has reached a sophisticated level in industry. Till the
early 1980s, justification spreadsheets were used in order to obtain approvals for
condition-based maintenance programs. Luckily, this is no longer the case.
The advantages of predictive maintenance are accepted in industry today, because the
tangible benefits in terms of early warnings about mechanical and structural problems in
machinery are clear. The method is now seen as an essential detection and diagnosis tool
that has a certain impact in reducing maintenance costs, operational vs repair downtime
and inventory hold-up.
In the continuous process industry, such as oil and gas, power generation, steel, paper,
cement, petrochemicals, textiles, aluminum and others, the penalties of even a small
amount of downtime are immense. It is in these cases that the adoption of the predictive
maintenance is required above all.
Through the years, predictive maintenance has helped improve productivity, product
quality, profitability and overall effectiveness of manufacturing plants.
Predictive maintenance in the actual sense is a philosophy an attitude that uses the
actual operating conditions of the plant equipment and systems to optimize the total plant
It is generally observed that manufacturers embarking upon a predictive maintenance
program become more aware of the specific equipment problems and subsequently try to
identify the root causes of failures. This tendency led to an evolved kind of maintenance
called proactive maintenance.
In this case, the maintenance departments take additional time to carry out precision
balancing, more accurate alignments, detune resonating pipes, adhere strictly to oil
check/change schedules, etc. This ensures that they eliminate the causes that may give
rise to defects in their equipment in the future.
This evolution in maintenance philosophy has brought about longer equipment life,
higher safety levels, better product quality, lower life cycle costs and reduced
emergencies and panic decisions precipitated by major and unforeseen mechanical

Predictive maintenance basics

Putting all this objectively, one can enumerate the benefits in the following way:
Increase in machine productivity: By implementing predictive maintenance,
it may be possible to virtually eliminate plant downtime due to unexpected
equipment failures.
Extend intervals between overhauls: This maintenance philosophy provides
information that allows scheduling maintenance activities on an as needed
Minimize the number of open, inspect and repair if necessary overhaul
routines: Predictive maintenance pinpoints specific defects and can thus
make maintenance work more focused, rather than investigating all possibilities
to detect problems.
Improve repair time: Since the specific equipment problems are known in
advance, maintenance work can be scheduled. This makes the maintenance work
faster and smoother. As machines are stopped before breakdowns occur, there is
virtually no secondary damage, thus reducing repair time.
Increase machine life: A well-maintained machine generally lasts longer.
Resources for repair can be properly planned: Prediction of equipment defects
reduces failure detection time, thus also failure reporting time, assigning of
personnel, obtaining the correct documentation, securing the necessary spares,
tooling and other items required for a repair.
Improve product quality: Often, the overall effect of improved maintenance
is improved product quality. For instance, vibration in paper machines has a
direct effect on the quality of the paper.
Save maintenance costs: Studies have shown that the implementation of a
proper maintenance plan results in average savings of 2025% in direct
maintenance costs in conjunction with twice this value in increased


Plant machinery classification and recommendations


Maintenance strategy
The above-mentioned maintenance philosophies have their own advantages and
disadvantages and are implemented after carrying out a criticality analysis on the plant
equipment. Usually the criticality analysis categorizes the equipment as:
General purpose.
The critical equipment are broadly selected on the following basis:
If their failure can affect plant safety.
Machines that are essential for plant operation and where a shutdown will
curtail the production process.
Critical machines include unspared machinery trains and large horsepower
These machines have high capital cost, they are very expensive to repair
(e.g., high-speed turbomachinery) or take a long time to repair.

Practical Machinery Vibration Analysis and Predictive Maintenance

Perennial bad actors or machines that wreck on the slightest provocation of

an off-duty operation.
Finally, machinery trains where better operation could save energy or improve
In all probability, the proactive and predictive maintenance philosophy is adopted for
critical equipment. Vibration-monitoring instruments are provided with continuous,
full-time monitoring capabilities for these machines. Some systems are capable of
monitoring channels simultaneously so that rapid assessment of the entire machine train
is possible.
The essential equipment are broadly selected on the following basis:
Failure can affect plant safety.
Machines that are essential for plant operation and where a shutdown will
curtail a unit operation or a part of the process.
They may or may not have an installed spare available.
Start-up is possible but may affect production process.
High horsepower or high speed but might not be running continuously.
Some machines that demand time-based maintenance, like reciprocating
These machines require moderate expenditure, expertise and time to repair.
Perennial bad actors or machines that wreck at a historically arrived time
schedule. For example, centrifugal fans in corrosive service.
In many cases, the preventive maintenance philosophy, and at times even a less
sophisticated predictive maintenance program is adopted for such equipment. These
essential machines do not need to have the same monitoring instrumentation requirements
as critical machines. Vibration-monitoring systems installed on essential machines can be
of the scanning type, where the system switches from one sensor to the next to display the
sensor output levels one by one.
The general purpose equipment are broadly selected on the following basis:

Failure does not affect plant safety.

Not critical to plant production.
Machine has an installed spare or can operate on demand.
These machines require low to moderate expenditure, expertise and time to
Secondary damage does not occur or is minimal.
Usually it is acceptable to adopt the breakdown maintenance philosophy on general
purpose equipment. However, in modern plants, even general purpose machines are not
left to chance.
These machines do not qualify them for permanently installed instrumentation or a
continuous monitoring system. They are usually monitored with portable instruments.


Principles of predictive maintenance

Predictive maintenance is basically a condition-driven preventive maintenance. Industrial
or in-plant average life statistics are not used to schedule maintenance activities in this
case. Predictive maintenance monitors mechanical condition, equipment efficiency and
other parameters and attempts to derive the approximate time of a functional failure.

Predictive maintenance basics

A comprehensive predictive maintenance program utilizes a combination of the most

cost-effective tools to obtain the actual operating conditions of the equipment and plant
systems. On the basis of this collected data, the maintenance schedules are selected.
Predictive maintenance uses various techniques such as vibration analysis, oil and wear
debris analysis, ultrasonics, thermography, performance evaluation and other techniques
to assess the equipment condition.
Predictive maintenance techniques actually have a very close analogy to medical
diagnostic techniques. Whenever a human body has a problem, it exhibits a symptom.
The nervous system provides the information this is the detection stage. Furthermore, if
required, pathological tests are done to diagnose the problem. On this basis, suitable
treatment is recommended (see Figure 1.2).

Figure 1.2
Predictive maintenance

In a similar way, defects that occur in a machine always exhibit a symptom in the form
of vibration or some other parameter. However, this may or may not be easily detected on
machinery systems with human perceptions.
It is here that predictive maintenance techniques come to assistance. These techniques
detect symptoms of the defects that have occurred in machines and assist in diagnosing
the exact defects that have occurred. In many cases, it is also possible to estimate the
severity of the defects.
The specific techniques used depend on the type of plant equipment, their impact on
production or other key parameters of plant operation. Of further importance are the goals
and objectives that the predictive maintenance program needs to achieve.


Predictive maintenance techniques

There are numerous predictive maintenance techniques, including:
(a) Vibration monitoring: This is undoubtedly the most effective technique to
detect mechanical defects in rotating machinery.
(b) Acoustic emission: This can be used to detect, locate and continuously
monitor cracks in structures and pipelines.
(c) Oil analysis: Here, lubrication oil is analyzed and the occurrence of certain
microscopic particles in it can be connected to the condition of bearings and

Practical Machinery Vibration Analysis and Predictive Maintenance

(d) Particle analysis: Worn machinery components, whether in reciprocating

machinery, gearboxes or hydraulic systems, release debris. Collection and
analysis of this debris provides vital information on the deterioration of these
(e) Corrosion monitoring: Ultrasonic thickness measurements are conducted
on pipelines, offshore structures and process equipment to keep track of the
occurrence of corrosive wear.
(f) Thermography: Thermography is used to analyze active electrical and
mechanical equipment. The method can detect thermal or mechanical
defects in generators, overhead lines, boilers, misaligned couplings and
many other defects. It can also detect cell damage in carbon fiber structures
on aircrafts.
(g) Performance monitoring: This is a very effective technique to determine
the operational problems in equipment. The efficiency of machines provides a
good insight on their internal conditions.
Despite all these methods, it needs to be cautioned that there have been cases where
predictive maintenance programs were not able to demonstrate tangible benefits for an
organisation. The predominant causes that lead to failure of predictive maintenance are
inadequate management support, bad planning and lack of skilled and trained manpower.
Upon activating a predictive maintenance program, it is very essential to decide on the
specific techniques to be adopted for monitoring the plant equipment. The various
methods are also dependent on type of industry, type of machinery and also to a great
extent on availability of trained manpower.
It is also necessary to take note of the fact that predictive maintenance techniques
require technically sophisticated instruments to carry out the detection and diagnostics of
plant machinery. These instruments are generally very expensive and need technically
competent people to analyze their output.
The cost implications, whether on sophisticated instrumentation or skilled manpower,
often lead to a question mark about the plan of adopting predictive maintenance
However, with management support, adequate investments in people and equipment,
predictive maintenance can yield very good results after a short period of time.


Vibration analysis a key predictive maintenance



Vibration analysis (detection mode)

Vibration analysis is used to determine the operating and mechanical condition of
equipment. A major advantage is that vibration analysis can identify developing problems
before they become too serious and cause unscheduled downtime. This can be achieved
by conducting regular monitoring of machine vibrations either on continuous basis or at
scheduled intervals.
Regular vibration monitoring can detect deteriorating or defective bearings, mechanical
looseness and worn or broken gears. Vibration analysis can also detect misalignment and
unbalance before these conditions result in bearing or shaft deterioration.
Trending vibration levels can identify poor maintenance practices, such as improper
bearing installation and replacement, inaccurate shaft alignment or imprecise rotor

Predictive maintenance basics

All rotating machines produce vibrations that are a function of the machine dynamics,
such as the alignment and balance of the rotating parts. Measuring the amplitude of
vibration at certain frequencies can provide valuable information about the accuracy of
shaft alignment and balance, the condition of bearings or gears, and the effect on the
machine due to resonance from the housings, piping and other structures.
Vibration measurement is an effective, non-intrusive method to monitor machine
condition during start-ups, shutdowns and normal operation. Vibration analysis is used
primarily on rotating equipment such as steam and gas turbines, pumps, motors,
compressors, paper machines, rolling mills, machine tools and gearboxes.
Recent advances in technology allow a limited analysis of reciprocating equipment such
as large diesel engines and reciprocating compressors. These machines also need other
techniques to fully monitor their operation.
A vibration analysis system usually consists of four basic parts:
1. Signal pickup(s), also called a transducer
2. A signal analyzer
3. Analysis software
4. A computer for data analysis and storage.
These basic parts can be configured to form a continuous online system, a periodic
analysis system using portable equipment, or a multiplexed system that samples a series
of transducers at predetermined time intervals.
Hard-wired and multiplexed systems are more expensive per measurement position.
The determination of which configuration would be more practical and suitable depends
on the critical nature of the equipment, and also on the importance of continuous or semicontinuous measurement data for that particular application.


Vibration analysis (diagnosis mode)

Operators and technicians often detect unusual noises or vibrations on the shop floor or
plant where they work on a daily basis. In order to determine if a serious problem actually
exists, they could proceed with a vibration analysis. If a problem is indeed detected,
additional spectral analyses can be done to accurately define the problem and to estimate
how long the machine can continue to run before a serious failure occurs.
Vibration measurements in analysis (diagnosis) mode can be cost-effective for less
critical equipment, particularly if budgets or manpower are limited. Its effectiveness relies
heavily on someone detecting unusual noises or vibration levels. This approach may not
be reliable for large or complex machines, or in noisy parts of a plant. Furthermore, by
the time a problem is noticed, a considerable amount of deterioration or damage may
have occurred.
Another application for vibration analysis is as an acceptance test to verify that a
machine repair was done properly. The analysis can verify whether proper maintenance
was carried out on bearing or gear installation, or whether alignment or balancing was
done to the required tolerances. Additional information can be obtained by monitoring
machinery on a periodic basis, for example, once per month or once per quarter. Periodic
analysis and trending of vibration levels can provide a more subtle indication of bearing
or gear deterioration, allowing personnel to project the machine condition into the
foreseeable future. The implication is that equipment repairs can be planned to commence
during normal machine shutdowns, rather than after a machine failure has caused
unscheduled downtime.

10 Practical Machinery Vibration Analysis and Predictive Maintenance


Vibration analysis benefits

Vibration analysis can identify improper maintenance or repair practices. These can
include improper bearing installation and replacement, inaccurate shaft alignment or
imprecise rotor balancing. As almost 80% of common rotating equipment problems are
related to misalignment and unbalance, vibration analysis is an important tool that can be
used to reduce or eliminate recurring machine problems.
Trending vibration levels can also identify improper production practices, such as using
equipment beyond their design specifications (higher temperatures, speeds or loads).
These trends can also be used to compare similar machines from different manufacturers
in order to determine if design benefits or flaws are reflected in increased or decreased
Ultimately, vibration analysis can be used as part of an overall program to significantly
improve equipment reliability. This can include more precise alignment and balancing,
better quality installations and repairs, and continuously lowering the average vibration
levels of equipment in the plant.

Predictive maintenance
techniques: Part 2
Vibration basics


Spring-mass system: mass, stiffness, damping

A basic understanding of how a discrete spring-mass system responds to an external force
can be helpful in understanding, recognising and solving many problems encountered in
vibration measurement and analysis.
Figure 2.1 shows a spring-mass system. There is a mass M attached to a spring with a
stiffness k. The front of the mass M is attached to a piston with a small opening in it. The
piston slides through a housing filled with oil.
The holed piston sliding through an oil-filled housing is referred to as a dashpot
mechanism and it is similar in principle to shock absorbers in cars.

Figure 2.1
Spring-mass system

When an external force F moves the mass M forward, two things happen:
1. The spring is stretched.
2. The oil from the front of the piston moves to the back through the small

12 Practical Machinery Vibration Analysis and Predictive Maintenance

We can easily visualize that the force F has to overcome three things:
1. Inertia of the mass M.
2. Stiffness of the spring k.
3. Resistance due to forced flow of oil from the front to the back of the piston or,
in other words, the damping C of the dashpot mechanism.
All machines have the three fundamental properties that combine to determine how
the machine will react to the forces that cause vibrations, just like the spring-mass
The three fundamental properties are:
(a) Mass (M)
(b) Stiffness (k)
(c) Damping (C).
These properties are the inherent characteristics of a machine or structure with which it
will resist or oppose vibration.
(a) Mass: Mass represents the inertia of a body to remain in its original state of
rest or motion. A force tries to bring about a change in this state of rest or
motion, which is resisted by the mass. It is measured in kg.
(b) Stiffness: There is a certain force required to bend or deflect a structure with
a certain distance. This measure of the force required to obtain a certain
deflection is called stiffness. It is measured in N/m.
(c) Damping: Once a force sets a part or structure into motion, the part or
structure will have inherent mechanisms to slow down the motion (velocity).
This characteristic to reduce the velocity of the motion is called damping. It is
measured in N/(m/s).
As mentioned above, the combined effects to restrain the effect of forces due to
mass, stiffness and damping determine how a system will respond to the given
external force.
Simply put, a defect in a machine brings about a vibratory movement. The mass,
stiffness and damping try to oppose the vibrations that are induced by the defect. If the
vibrations due to the defects are much larger than the net sum of the three restraining
characteristics, the amount of the resulting vibrations will be higher and the defect can be


System response
Consider a rotor system (Figure 2.2) that has a mass M supported between two bearings.
The rotor mass M is assumed as concentrated between the supported bearings; it contains
an unbalance mass (Mu) located at a fixed radius r and is rotating at an angular velocity
, where:



rpm = revolutions per minute

Vibration basics 13

Figure 2.2
A rotor system response

The vibration force produced by the unbalance mass Mu is represented by:

F (unbalance) = Mu r 2 sin( t )

where t = time in seconds.

The restraining force generated by the three system characteristics is:
M (a ) + C (v) + k (d )

where a = acceleration; v = velocity; d = displacement.

If the system is in equilibrium, the two forces are equal and the equation can be written as:
Mu r 2 sin( t ) = M (a ) + C (v) + k (d )

However, in reality the restraining forces do not work in tandem. With changing
conditions, one factor may increase while the other may decrease. The net result can
display a variation in the sum of these forces.
This in turn varies the systems response (vibration levels) to exciting forces (defects
like unbalance that generate vibrations). Thus, the vibration caused by the unbalance will
be higher if the net sum of factors on the right-hand side of the equation is less than
unbalance force. In a similar way, it is possible that one may not experience any
vibrations at all if the net sum of the right-hand side factors becomes much larger than the
unbalance force.


What is vibration?
Vibration, very simply put, is the motion of a machine or its part back and forth from its
position of rest.
The most classical example is that of a body with mass M to which a spring with a
stiffness k is attached. Until a force is applied to the mass M and causes it to move, there
is no vibration.
Refer to Figure 2.3. By applying a force to the mass, the mass moves to the left,
compressing the spring. When the mass is released, it moves back to its neutral position
and then travels further right until the spring tension stops the mass. The mass then turns
around and begins to travel leftwards again. It again crosses the neutral position and
reaches the left limit. This motion can theoretically continue endlessly if there is no
damping in the system and no external effects (such as friction).
This motion is called vibration.

14 Practical Machinery Vibration Analysis and Predictive Maintenance

Figure 2.3
The nature of vibration


The nature of vibration

A lot can be learned about a machines condition and possible mechanical problems by
noting its vibration characteristics. We can now learn the characteristics, which characterize
a vibration signal.
Referring back to the mass-spring body, we can study the characteristics of vibration
by plotting the movement of the mass with respect to time. This plot is shown in
Figure 2.4.
The motion of the mass from its neutral position, to the top limit of travel, back through
its neutral position, to the bottom limit of travel and the return to its neutral position,
represents one cycle of motion. This one cycle of motion contains all the information
necessary to measure the vibration of this system. Continued motion of the mass will
simply repeat the same cycle.
This motion is called periodic and harmonic, and the relationship between the
displacement of the mass and time is expressed in the form of a sinusoidal equation:
X = X 0 sin t

X = displacement at any given instant t; X0 = maximum displacement; = 2 f ;

f = frequency (cycles/s hertz Hz); t = time (seconds).

Vibration basics 15

Figure 2.4
Simple harmonic wave locus of spring-mass motion with respect to time

As the mass travels up and down, the velocity of the travel changes from zero to a
maximum. Velocity can be obtained by time differentiating the displacement equation:
= X 0 cos t
Similarly, the acceleration of the mass also varies and can be obtained by differentiating
the velocity equation:
d (velocity)
acceleration =
= X 0 2 sin t
velocity =

In Figure 2.5: displacement is shown as a sine curve; velocity, as a cosine curve;

acceleration is again represented by a sine curve.

Figure 2.5
Waveform of acceleration, velocity and displacement of mass in simple harmonic motion


Wave fundamentals
Terms such as cycle, frequency, wavelength, amplitude and phase are frequently used
when describing waveforms. We will now discuss these terms and others in detail as they
are also used to describe vibration wave propagation.

16 Practical Machinery Vibration Analysis and Predictive Maintenance

We will also discuss waveforms, harmonics, Fourier transforms and overall vibration
values, as these are concepts connected to machine diagnostics using vibration analysis.
In Figure 2.6, waves 1 and 2 have equal frequencies and wavelengths but different
amplitudes. The reference line (line of zero displacement) is the position at which a
particle of matter would have been if it were not disturbed by the wave motion.

Figure 2.6
Comparison of waves with different amplitudes


Frequency (cycle)
At point E, the wave begins to repeat with a second cycle, which is completed at point I, a
third cycle at point M, etc. The peak of the positive alternation (maximum value above
the line) is sometimes referred to as the top or crest, and the peak of the negative
alternation (maximum value below the line) is sometimes called the bottom or trough, as
shown in Figure 2.6. Therefore, one cycle has one crest and one trough.


A wavelength is the distance in space occupied by one cycle of a transverse wave at any
given instant. If the wave could be frozen and measured, the wavelength would be the
distance from the leading edge of one cycle to the corresponding point on the next cycle.
Wavelengths vary from a few hundredths of an inch at extremely high frequencies to
many miles at extremely low frequencies, depending on the medium. In Figure 2.6 (wave 1),
the distance between A and E, or B and F, etc., is one wavelength. The Greek letter
(lambda) is commonly used to signify wavelength.


Two waves may have the same wavelength, but the crest of one may rise higher above the
reference line than the crest of the other, for instance waves 1 and 2 in Figure 2.6. The height

Vibration basics 17

of a wave crest above the reference line is called the amplitude of the wave. The amplitude of
a wave gives a relative indication of the amount of energy the wave transmits. A continuous
series of waves, such as A through Q, having the same amplitude and wavelength, is
called a train of waves or wave train.


Frequency and time

When a wave train passes through a medium, a certain number of individual waves pass a
given point for a specific unit of time. For example, if a cork on a water wave rises and
falls once every second, the wave makes one complete up-and-down vibration every
second. The number of vibrations, or cycles, of a wave train in a unit of time is called the
frequency of the wave train and is measured in hertz (Hz). If five waves pass a point in
one second, the frequency of the wave train is five cycles per second. In Figure 2.6, the
frequency of both waves 1 and 2 is four cycles per second (cycles per second is
abbreviated as cps).
In 1967, in honor of the German physicist Heinrich hertz, the term hertz was designated
for use in lieu of the term cycle per second when referring to the frequency of radio
waves. It may seem confusing that in one place the term cycle is used to designate the
positive and negative alternations of a wave, but in another instance the term hertz is
used to designate what appears to be the same thing. The key is the time factor. The term
cycle refers to any sequence of events, such as the positive and negative alternations,
comprising one cycle of any wave. The term hertz refers to the number of occurrences
that take place in one second.


If we consider the two waves as depicted in Figure 2.7, we find that the waves are
identical in amplitude and frequency but a distance of T/4 offsets the crests of the waves.
This lag of time is called the phase lag and is measured by the phase angle.

Figure 2.7
Phase relationship between two similar waves

A time lag of T is a phase angle of 360, thus a time lag of T/4 will be a phase
angle of 90.
In this case we would normally describe the two waves as out of phase by 90.

18 Practical Machinery Vibration Analysis and Predictive Maintenance


We have seen earlier, under the topic nature of vibrations, that displacement, velocity and
acceleration of a spring-mass system in motion can be represented by sine and cosine
waves. The waveform is a visual representation (or graph) of the instantaneous value of
the motion plotted against time.


Figure 2.8 depicts many interesting waveforms. Let us presume that displacement is
represented on the Y-axis. Since it is a representation vs time, the X-axis will be the time
scale of 1 s.

Figure 2.8
An interesting waveform

The first wave that we should observe is the [1] wave. It is represented by one
cycle. As the time scale is 1 s, it has a frequency of 1 Hz.
The next wave to be considered is the [3] wave. It can be seen that it has three
cycles in the same period of the first wave. Thus, it has a frequency of 3 Hz.
Third is the [5] wave. Here five cycles can be traced, and it thus has a frequency
of 5 Hz.
Next is the [7] wave. It has seven cycles and therefore a frequency of 7 Hz.
The [9] wave is next with nine cycles and it will have a frequency of 9 Hz.
In this way an odd series (1,3,5,7,9) of the waves can be observed in the figure. Such a
series is called the odd harmonics of the fundamental frequency.
If we were to see waveforms with frequencies of 1,2,3,4,5 . . . Hz, then they would be
the harmonics of the first wave of 1 Hz. The first wave of the series is usually designated
as the wave with the fundamental frequency.
Coming back to the figure, it is noticed that if the fundamental waveforms with odd
harmonics are added up, the resultant wave seen on the figure incidentally looks like a
square waveform, which is more complex.
If a series of sinusoidal waveforms can be added to form a complex waveform, then is
the reverse possible? It is possible and this is a widely used technique called the Fourier

Vibration basics 19

transform. It is a mathematically rigorous operation, which transforms waveforms from

the time domain to the frequency domain and vice versa.


Fourier analysis
Fourier analysis is another term for the transformation of a time waveform (Figure 2.9) into
a spectrum of amplitude vs frequency values. Fourier analysis is sometimes referred to as
spectrum analysis, and can be done with a fast Fourier transform (FFT) analyzer.

Figure 2.9
A Fourier transform of the square waveform


Overall amplitude
We have seen how a square waveform looks like in the time domain. The waveform is a
representation of instantaneous amplitude of displacement, velocity or acceleration with
respect to time.
The overall level of vibration of a machine is a measure of the total vibration amplitude
over a wide range of frequencies, and can be expressed in acceleration, velocity or
displacement (Figure 2.10).
The overall vibration level can be measured with an analog vibration meter, or it can be
calculated from the vibration spectrum by adding all the amplitude values from the
spectrum over a certain frequency range.
When comparing overall vibration levels, it is important to make sure they were
calculated over the same frequency range.


Vibration terminology
Vibration displacement (peak to peak)
The total distance travelled by a vibrating part, from one extreme limit of travel to the
other extreme limit of travel is referred to as the peak to peak displacement.
In SI units this is usually measured in microns (1/1000th of a millimeter).
In imperial units it is measured in mils (milli inches 1/1000th of an inch).
Displacement is sometimes referred to only as peak (ISO 2372), which is half of
peak to peak.

20 Practical Machinery Vibration Analysis and Predictive Maintenance

Figure 2.10
Overall vibration plot of velocity

Vibration velocity (peak)

As the vibrating mass moves, the velocity changes. It is zero at the top and bottom limits
of motion when it comes to a rest before it changes its direction. The velocity is at its
maximum when the mass passes through its neutral position. This maximum velocity is
called as vibration velocity peak.
It is measured in mm/s-pk or inches/s-pk (ips-pk).
Vibration velocity (rms)
The International Standards Organization (ISO), who establishes internationally acceptable
units for measurement of machinery vibration, suggested the velocity root mean square
(rms) as the standard unit of measurement. This was decided in an attempt to derive criteria
that would determine an effective value for the varying function of velocity.
Velocity rms tends to provide the energy content in the vibration signal, whereas the
velocity peak correlated better with the intensity of vibration. Higher velocity rms is
generally more damaging than a similar magnitude of velocity peak.
Crest factor The crest factor of a waveform is the ratio of the peak value of the
waveform to the rms value of the waveform. It is also sometimes called the peak-to-rmsratio. The crest factor of a sine wave is 1.414, i.e. the peak value is 1.414 times the rms
value. The crest factor is one of the important features that can be used to trend machine
Vibration acceleration (peak)
In discussing vibration velocity, it was pointed out that the velocity of the mass
approaches zero at extreme limits of travel. Each time it comes to a stop at the limit of
travel, it must accelerate to increase velocity to travel to the opposite limit. Acceleration
is defined as the rate of change in velocity.
Referring to the spring-mass body, acceleration of the mass is at a maximum at the
extreme limit of travel where velocity of the mass is zero. As the velocity approaches a

Vibration basics 21

maximum value, the acceleration drops to zero and again continues to rise to its
maximum value at the other extreme limit of travel.
Acceleration is normally expressed in g, which is the acceleration produced by the force
of gravity at the surface of the earth. The value of g is 9.80665 m/s2, 32.1739 ft/s2 or
386.087 in./s2.
Displacement, velocity, acceleration which should be used?
The displacement, velocity and acceleration characteristics of vibration are measured to
determine the severity of the vibration and these are often referred to as the amplitude of
the vibration.
In terms of the operation of the machine, the vibration amplitude is the first indicator to
indicate how good or bad the condition of the machine may be. Generally, greater
vibration amplitudes correspond to higher levels of machinery defects.
Since the vibration amplitude can be either displacement, velocity or acceleration,
the obvious question is, which parameter should be used to monitor the machine
The relationship between acceleration, velocity and displacement with respect to
vibration amplitude and machinery health redefines the measurement and data analysis
techniques that should be used. Motion below 10 Hz (600 cpm) produces very little
vibration in terms of acceleration, moderate vibration in terms of velocity and relatively
large vibrations in terms of displacement (see Figure 2.11). Hence, displacement is used
in this range.

Figure 2.11
Relationship between displacement, velocity and acceleration at constant velocity. EU, engineering units

In the high frequency range, acceleration values yield more significant values than velocity
or displacement. Hence, for frequencies over 1000 Hz (60 kcpm) or 1500 Hz (90 kcpm),
the preferred measurement unit for vibration is acceleration.

22 Practical Machinery Vibration Analysis and Predictive Maintenance

It is generally accepted that between 10 Hz (600 cpm) and 1000 Hz (60 kcpm) velocity
gives a good indication of the severity of vibration, and above 1000 Hz (60 kcpm),
acceleration is the only good indicator.
Since the majority of general rotating machinery (and their defects) operate in the
101000 Hz range, velocity is commonly used for vibration measurement and


Using vibration theory to machinery fault detection

In Figure 2.12, a common machinery train is depicted. It consists of a driver or a prime
mover, such as an electric motor. Other prime movers include diesel engines, gas engines,
steam turbines and gas turbines. The driven equipment could be pumps, compressors,
mixers, agitators, fans, blowers and others. At times when the driven equipment has to be
driven at speeds other than the prime mover, a gearbox or a belt drive is used.

Figure 2.12
Machinery fault detection

Each of these rotating parts is further comprised of simple components such as:

Stator (volutes, diaphragms, diffusers, stators poles)

Rotors (impellers, rotors, lobes, screws, vanes, fans)

When these components operate continuously at high speeds, wear and failure is
imminent. When defects develop in these components, they give rise to higher vibration
With few exceptions, mechanical defects in a machine cause high vibration levels.
Common defects that cause high vibrations levels in machines are:

Unbalance of rotating parts

Misalignment of couplings and bearings
Bent shafts
Worn or damaged gears and bearings
Bad drive belts and chains

Vibration basics 23


Torque variations
Electromagnetic forces
Aerodynamic forces
Hydraulic forces

To generalize the above list, it can be stated that whenever either one or more parts are
unbalanced, misaligned, loose, eccentric, out of tolerance dimensionally, damaged or
reacting to some external force, higher vibration levels will occur.
Some of the common defects are shown in Figure 2.12. The vibrations caused by the
defects occur at specific vibration frequencies, which are characteristic of the components,
their operation, assembly and wear. The vibration amplitudes at particular frequencies are
indicative of the severity of the defects.
Vibration analysis aims to correlate the vibration response of the system with specific
defects that occur in the machinery, its components, trains or even in mechanical


Limits and standards of vibration

As mentioned above, vibration amplitude (displacement, velocity or acceleration) is a
measure of the severity of the defect in a machine. A common dilemma for vibration
analysts is to determine whether the vibrations are acceptable to allow further operation
of the machine in a safe manner.
To solve this dilemma, it is important to keep in mind that the objective should be to
implement regular vibration checks to detect defects at an early stage. The goal is not to
determine how much vibration a machine will withstand before failure! The aim should
be to obtain a trend in vibration characteristics that can warn of impending trouble, so it
can be reacted upon before failure occurs.
Absolute vibration tolerances or limits for any given machine are not possible. That is,
it is impossible to fix a vibration limit that will result in immediate machine failure when
exceeded. The developments of mechanical failures are far too complex to establish such
However, it would be also impossible to effectively utilize vibrations as an indicator
of machinery condition unless some guidelines are available, and the experiences of
those familiar with machinery vibrations have provided us with some realistic
We have mentioned earlier that velocity is the most common parameter for vibration
analysis, as most machines and their defects generate vibrations in the frequencies range
of 10 Hz (600 cpm) to 1 kHz (60 kcpm).


ISO 2372
The most widely used standard as an indicator of vibration severity is ISO 2372 (BS
4675). The standard can be used to determine acceptable vibration levels for various
classes of machinery. Thus, to use this ISO standard, it is necessary to first classify the
machine of interest. Reading across the chart we can correlate the severity of the machine
condition with vibration. The standard uses the parameter of velocity-rms to indicate
severity. The letters A, B, C and D as seen in Figure 2.13, classify the severity.

24 Practical Machinery Vibration Analysis and Predictive Maintenance

Figure 2.13

ISO 2372 ISO guideline for machinery vibration severity

Class I Individual parts of engines and machines integrally connected with a complete
machine in its normal operating condition (production electrical motors of up to 15 kW
are typical examples of machines in this category).
Class II Medium-sized machines (typically electrical motors with 1575 kW output)
without special foundations, rigidly mounted engines or machines (up to 300 kW) on
special foundations.
Class III Large prime movers and other large machines with rotating masses mounted
on rigid and heavy foundations, which are relatively stiff in the direction of vibration.
Class IV Large prime movers and other large machines with rotating masses mounted
on foundations, which are relatively soft in the direction of vibration measurement (for
example turbogenerator sets, especially those with lightweight substructures).
American Petroleum Institute (API specification)
The American Petroleum Institute (API) has set forth a number of specifications dealing
with turbomachines used in the petroleum industry. Some of the specifications that have
been prepared include API-610, API-611, API-612, API-613, API-616 and API-617.
These specifications mainly deal with the many aspects of machinery design, installation,
performance and support systems. However, there are also specifications for rotor balance
quality, rotor dynamics and vibration tolerances.
API standards have developed limits for casing as well as shaft vibrations (Figure 2.14).
The API specification on vibration limits for turbo machines is widely accepted and
followed with apparently good results.
The API standard specifies that the maximum allowable vibration displacement of a
shaft measured in mils (milli-inches = 0.001 inch = 0.0254 mm) peakpeak shall not be
greater than 2.0 mils or (12 000/N)1/2, where N is speed of the machine, whichever
is less.

Vibration basics 25

Figure 2.14
Vibration limits API-610 centrifugal pumps in refinery service

26 Practical Machinery Vibration Analysis and Predictive Maintenance

American Gear Manufacturers Association (AGMA specification)

In 1972, AGMA formulated a specification called the AGMA standard specification
for Measurement of Lateral Vibration on High Speed Helical and Herringbone
Gear Units AGMA 426.01 (the present standard is now revised to AGMA 6000-B96).
It presents a method for measuring linear vibration on a gear unit. It recommends
instrumentation, measuring methods, test procedures and discrete frequency vibration limits
for acceptance testing. It annexes a list of system effects on gear unit vibration and system
responsibility. Determination of mechanical vibrations of gear units during acceptance testing
is also mentioned.


IRD mechanalysis vibration standards

General machinery severity chart
The general machinery severity chart (Figure 2.15) incorporates vibration velocity
measurements along with the familiar displacement measurements, when amplitude
readings are obtained in metric units (microns-peakpeak or mm/s-peak). The chart
evolved out of a large amount of data collected from different machines.
When using displacement measurements, only filtered displacement readings (for a
specific frequency) should be applied to the chart. Overall vibration velocity can be
applied since the lines that divide the severity regions are actually constant velocity lines.
The chart is used for casing vibrations and not meant for shaft vibrations.

Figure 2.15
General machinery severity chart

Vibration basics 27

The chart applies to machines that are rigidly mounted or bolted to a fairly rigid
foundation. Machines mounted on resilient vibration isolators such as coil springs or
rubber pads will generally have higher amplitudes of vibration compared to rigidly mounted
A general rule is to allow twice as much vibration for a machine mounted on isolators.
High-frequency vibrations should not be subjected to the above criteria.
General vibration acceleration severity chart
The general vibration acceleration severity chart is used in cases where machinery
vibration is measured in units of acceleration (g-peak) (see Figure 2.16).
Constant vibration velocity lines are included on the chart to provide a basis for
comparison, and it can be noted that for vibration frequencies below 60 000 cpm (1000 Hz),
the lines that divide the severity regions are of a relatively constant velocity. However,
above this limit, the severity regions are defined by nearly constant acceleration values.
Since the severity of vibration acceleration depends on frequency, only filtered
acceleration readings can be applied to the chart.

Figure 2.16
Vibration acceleration severity chart IRD mechanalysis

28 Practical Machinery Vibration Analysis and Predictive Maintenance

Tentative guide to vibration limits for machine tools

Amplitudes of machine tool vibration must be relatively low in order to maintain dimensional
tolerances and to provide acceptable surface finish of machined workpieces.
The vibration limits tabulated below are based on the experience of manufacturers and
were selected as typical of those required on machine tools in order to achieve these
These limits should be used as a guide only modern machines may need even tighter
limits for stringent machining specifications.
It should be mentioned that vibration limits are in displacement units, as the primary
concern for machine tool vibration is the relative motion between the workpiece and the
cutting edge. This relative motion is compared to the specified surface finish and
dimensional tolerances, which are also expressed in terms of displacement units.
When critical machinery with a heavy penalty for process downtime is involved, the
decision to correct a condition of vibration is often a very difficult one to make. Therefore,
when establishing acceptable levels of machinery condition, experience and factors such
as safety, labor costs, downtime costs and the machines criticality should be considered.
It is thus reiterated that standards should only be an indicator of machine condition and
not a basis for shutting down the machine. What is of extreme importance is that
vibrations of machines should be recorded and trended diligently.
Displacement of vibrations as read with sensor on spindle bearing housing in the direction of cut

Type of Machine
Thread grinder
Profile or contour grinder
Cylindrical grinder
Surface grinder (vertical reading)
Gardener or besly type
Boring machine

Tolerance Range (mils)


A rising trend is of great concern even when the velocity values as per the standard are
still in Good range. Similarly, a machine operating for years with velocity values in the
Not acceptable range is not a problem if there is no rising trend.
Those who have been working on the shop floor for a long time will agree that even
two similar machines built simultaneously by one manufacturer can have vastly different
vibration levels and yet operate continuously without any problems. One has to accept the
limitations of these standards, which cannot be applied to a wide range of complex
machines. Some machines such as hammer mills or rock and coal crushers will inherently
have higher levels of vibration anyway.
Therefore, the values provided by these guides should be used only if experience,
maintenance records and history proved them to be valid.